TT MATCH VERDICT
Ben Currie – @bencurrie8
With an alarming number of matches falling foul of Covid 19 protocols, both in our league and elsewhere, it feels like there is bad news waiting around the corner and tough decisions for the relevant football authorities to make. For now though, it is business as usual and Torquay returned to league action looking to consolidate their 5 point lead at the top of the table and extend their 5 match winning/unbeaten run.
Visiting Plainmoor today are 13th placed Boreham Wood, no doubt keen to bounce back from Tuesday’s defeat to (previous) bottom club Dagenham. Boreham, under the diligent stewardship of Luke Garrard, always offer a stern test and with proven firepower from the likes of Matt Rhead, Kabongo Tshimanga and Shaquille Coulthirst, are a team who should not be underestimated.
Last Sunday saw Torquay painfully dumped out of the FA cup in spectacular fashion; conceding three late goals in extra-time to lose a truly bonkers tie 6-5 to Crawley. In the aftermath of such a stinging defeat it should not be forgotten that The Gulls more than matched their Football League opponents for large portions of the match and in particular in a first half that saw United dominantly race into a 2 goal lead.
Shaun MacDonald replaced the injured Lucas Covolan between the sticks in the only change to the starting XI as United attacked the away end In the first half at a wet and windy Plainmoor.
It was obvious from the start that the wild conditions would affect play, with the ball moving heavily across the surface it was important to really make the passes count, whilst a strong wind would take long balls harmlessly out of play at the Babbacombe End throughout the entire match; it was perhaps a day for finding a different way to play.
Torquay struggled to get on the front foot; we have seen fast starts with high intensity, high tempo play in recent weeks but with ball control and quick passing harder to come by the match began in much scrappier fashion and patience looked to be required. Boreham fired off a few warning shots from distance to test MacDonald’s handling but found the Geordie stopper equal to the task.
The Gulls took the lead, slightly against the run of play, in the 15th minute when Connor Lemonheigh-Evans floated in an inviting free-kick straight onto the head of Sam Sherring who directed the ball serenely into the top corner for his second goal of an already impressive season.
Often under Johnson, Torquay have quickly added to their leads in order to get a strong hold of the game, today was not one of those occasions as Boreham did not let their heads drop and set about finding an equaliser. The early substitution of Tshimanga, through injury, did little to derail their attacking threat and with Sorba Thomas becoming increasingly more influential the away team always looked dangerous on the break.
At times Thomas was taking two markers out of the game as United struggled to handle his probing running, he fired a warning shot just wide in the 44th minute before equalising moments before the half-time whistle. Attacking down the left, the highly sought-after prospect found his way to the by-line and his attempted cross picked up a nasty deflection off Wynter and looped over the wrong-footed MacDonald and into the far corner. It had an element of the flukish about it but it was no more than Boreham deserved on the balance of play.
Into the second half and the rain had now subsided somewhat, how would Torquay fare playing into the wind towards the Family Stand? The referee briefly threatened to lose control of the match, booking both Wright and Rhead for similar looking incidents when the truth was that neither much looked like a cautionable offence. It did seem to slightly blunt both attacks knowing that a clumsy challenge could see either side’s target man sent for an early bath.
The Yellows nearly fell behind as the visitors smelt blood and cranked it up a gear; first Rhead stabbed the ball wide when the ball fell to him kindly at a corner, two minutes later Kane Smith fired a delicious ball across the box which only needed a touch in order to find the net but it luckily eluded both on-rushing strikers- but it couldn’t have been by much.
The let-offs appeared to stir United back onto the front foot and some neat play found Evans at the by-line, behind the Boreham defence on a rare occasion, his ball to the back post was taken off Wright’s head and away to the edge of the box where Randell smashed a half-volley well wide. Just moments later another cleared cross found Wynter loitering on the edge of the box and his thunderous volley looked destined for the top corner until Nathan Ashmore spectacularly parried it away to safety. It would have been the goal of the season. It was increasingly difficult to call a winner as both teams looked threatening going forward.
Torquay’s task was made a lot harder on the 70th minute when Adam Randell tried in vain to pull out of a challenge but clumsily chopped his man down, and the referee had little hesitation in issuing a second yellow card- and Randell his marching orders.
You learn a lot about your team when they face adversity and the ten men more than held their own against eleven for the final quarter of the match, filling in gaps when necessary and trying to be sensible with possession. The Gulls creating one or two openings to try and fashion a late winner that has lately become a trademark but as the clock ticked towards the 92nd minute Ben Wynter could not quite get enough power to direct the ball back across goal with the Boreham defence at sixes and sevens.
Seconds later, the ball was bouncing around the Torquay box as Rhead managed to fire a shot goalwards which MacDonald managed to parry onto the chest of Asa Hall who was covering the goal-line. His clearance signalled the end of another tipsy-turvy match where honours remained even, and that was just about fair.
MACDONALD 7. Excellent handling in tricky conditions and generally authoritative over his defence, excellent save at the end having had little to do in the second half.
WYNTER 6. Given a hard time by Thomas but was unfortunate to see his deflection end up in the back of the net. Always dangerous going forward and nearly scored with a superb volley.
CAMERON and SHERRING 7 Stood up to the physical presence of Rhead well throughout and had to be on their mettle towards the end (playing with a man less) and restricted Boreham to pop-shots at goal. Both look imposing bringing the ball out of play, look a very confident partnership.
MOXEY 6. Didn’t notice him getting forward as much today but used all his experience to help a youngish side deal with Boreham’s threat. Been a very solid acquisition and immediately stopped us trying to put a square peg in a round hole at left back.
HALL 6. Looked a lot fitter in the last few weeks, has been well managed. So crucial as a leader and holding our shape. We can’t afford to substitute that experience in the midfield if we can avoid it. Stepped up in the last 20 after his partner had been sent off.
RANDELL 6. A learning curve for our young loanee, on another day he might not have been booked at all but you can’t give the referee a decision to make when you are already walking a fine line. A real joy to watch though with a wide range and sensible use of passing and will be missed next week.
NEMANE 6. Tried manfully in helping Wynter handle the threat of Thomas and does a lot of good work for the team. Going forward I do find him infuriating as sometimes his decision making can frustrate but was looking strong right up until the final whistle.
EVANS 7.(MOTM) Most of our best play involves Connor, he has the ability to take two players out of the game at once and that was especially important when playing with 10 men. his set-pieces have become a real threat too. Has a tendency to hold onto the ball for a bit too long but that might explain why he’s playing at a level that I believe to be below him. I thought he was very inconsistent last season but really flourishing this now that, perhaps, he is 100% fit and getting a run of games in a tailor-made position.
WHITFIELD 6. A quieter day for our most exciting player. I imagine that Boreham did their homework on him because there were fewer of his pulsating runs and cutting in to take shots that have become his trademark. Kept going until the final whistle and you always feel he is capable of pulling a rabbit out of the hat at any moment. A genuine match-winner.
WRIGHT 6. A hard days graft and slightly unfortunate to pick up a booking which meant he was walking on a tight rope for the rest of the match- not ideal for a player who uses his physicality to such good effect. The fact that neither substitute striker was brought on to replace him shows how much the boss trusts him and was still pressing hard late into the match, nothing wrong with his fitness. Plenty more goals against less organised teams to come.
Do you agree with Ben? Rate the players here – TUFC PLAYER RATINGS
Having plundered on a 4-2-3-1 formation which gets the most out of the sum of its parts, it is up to the opposition to upset that system and today I felt Boreham did just that. With weather conditions also wreaking havoc with United’s front foot play, it was a day for concentration and organisation and then trying to hit Boreham on the counter attack. On occasion the overloads down either wing did unlock their defence but the final ball was mostly lacking. I was slightly surprised that no attacking substitutions were utilised on what must have been an energy-sapping afternoon but substitutions can often be gambles which rely on a manager’s intuition; if the gaffer trusted the players left on the pitch to get the job done then it is hard to argue with that, they have done a great job so far.
Boreham’s equaliser on the stroke of half-time changed the complexion of the match and the content of both manager’s team-talks. Whilst there is little doubting that Boreham deserved to be level on the balance of play, the equaliser had a huge slice of luck attached to it and for all their dangerous approach play they had not actually carved up any clear-cut chances up to that point. It was a bit of a hammer blow not to go in at half-time 1-0 up.
Boreham Wood are the best team I have seen us play so far this season. Their slow start has been slightly surprising given the fire-power at their disposal but we all know that nothing is decided in the first month of the season. I would anticipate that Boreham will steadily climb the league and have a lot to say at the top of the table. Good to watch, organised and disciplined but also know how to mix it. All the hallmarks.
Card-happy referees seldom make for good games of football. I am surprised that there were so many yellow cards in a match that was not dirty by any stretch.
I would like to see officials apply common sense in matches where the conditions might be conducive to clumsy fouls and mistimed tackles. There is a worrying trend (in the football world at large) where a player’s first tackle is deemed to be a foul, and then that foul is deemed to be a yellow card- which often leads to said player walking a tight-rope for the rest of the match – which for combative players majorly impacts on their performance. Not every foul is a yellow card offence, some players get sent off merely for mistiming their only 2 tackles In the match.
The referee threatened to lose control of proceedings in the second half when he booked Danny Wright for an aerial challenge, just seconds later he had no choice but to book Matt Rhead for the very same infringement. As a football fan, would I have preferred to see neither striker booked and then be free to play the rest of the match with no fear of getting sent off? Yes, very much so.
A draw was a fair result today between 2 very good footballing sides. Winning matches 5-0 wins you lots of admirers but you learn far more about your side with how they face adversity, and it’s getting a positive result when playing with 10 men that wins you prizes come the end of the season.
There is plenty of character in this team: having played 120 minutes last week and ultimately suffered heartbreak, it was heartening to see the team stand firm this afternoon and earn a point that could well be crucial when all is said and done. We would have lost that match last season, I was proud of the boys today.
This has been a superb start to the season, I would have snatched your hand off had you offered me this before a ball had been kicked, We have played some very good teams already and are still the team to catch. Our winning run now changes to an unbeaten run and psychologically that is important,
This is a youngish team and they are still learning. Today would have been a valuable lesson on how hard teams have to work in order to beat us. On one hand you might be disappointed that we didn’t find yet another later winner, but on the other we must be delighted that we didn’t capitulate in the manner that we saw last week. I feel that we are always moving forward.